A more proactive approach to Latinx students’ STEM needs

With Hispanic student enrollment growing at community colleges, leaders of the HSI ATE Hub — a collaborative that guides STEM faculty at Hispanic-serving institutions (HSI) toward securing Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grants — urge a proactive approach that ensures institutions fit with Hispanic students’ needs. 

They argue that this approach is likely to improve student success and could bolster colleges’ efforts to obtain federal support for STEM technician education innovations. The educators who lead the HSI ATE Hub are adapting lessons learned from KickStarter and Mentor-Connect, two National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded programs, to help community college faculty address the needs of Hispanic students. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) is a partner on the Mentor-Connect project.

Just because an institution has the 25 percent or more Hispanic enrollment to receive the federal designation as an HSI does not necessarily mean it has adjusted instructional and administrative practices to respond to Latinx students, explained Cynthia Pickering, a fellow at Science Foundation Arizona Center for STEM at Arizona State University, a nonprofit that offers KickStarter and other programs to help HSIs improve their STEM programs.    

The ATE program, through which NSF funds innovative STEM technician education, encourages proposals that recruit and retain student populations that have historically been underrepresented in STEM fields. 

A cultural component

HSI ATE Hub leaders posit that embedding culturally responsive practices into ATE proposals would assist students and could make those projects more competitive with reviewers. They also make the case that introducing culturally responsive practices into innovative STEM initiatives has the potential to inform practices throughout the college. (See the HSI ATE Hub webinar for more information on culturally responsive instructional strategies.)   

“There are grants available to help you do things in the right way — embed some of these proven strategies — so what you end up with will better serve all students,” said Elaine Craft, principal investigator of Mentor-Connect and the leader of HSI ATE Hub at Florence-Darlington Technical College in South Carolina. 

Pickering offers this example of how to incorporate culturally inclusive instruction into a grant proposal: “In addition to the proposal that you are making for Advanced Technological Education [funding], think about folding in some professional development for your faculty to increase their cultural acumen in your proposal to NSF, and the dollars to do that, as well as surveys or data-gathering from students about the STEM-skills efficacy … so you’re not just doing the technology piece.” 

Educators from two-year colleges that have not had an ATE grant in the past seven years are eligible to apply for Mentor-Connect’s grant-writing assistance. Applications are due October 9.

About the Author

Madeline Patton
is an education writer based in Ohio.